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The University of Southampton

ENGL3004 Writing the Novel

Module Overview

The essential elements of writing a novel include crafting beginnings and endings, constructing characters, manipulating structure and plot, and developing an intimate relationship with language. Writing exercises and discussions of work in progress will allow you to practise and reflect on the critical components of the novel, whilst sharpening your awareness of audience and readership. Your exploration of new ideas and rigorous investigation into relevant research areas will be supported by individual feedback on your work, as you get to grips with drafting and redrafting, finding and refining your writing style

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the process of writing a novel.
  • a range of contemporary novels and the stylistic and structural devices employed by their authors.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • look critically at your own work in order to edit and rewrite it as necessary to achieve a professional standard.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan, structure, edit and improve your work.
  • give and receive constructive criticism.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write an opening and several chapters of a novel


This module will cover the essential elements of writing a novel, including writing openings and endings, character development, structure, plot, language and style. The essentials of writing novels for children and young people will also be considered.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods and learning activities include two two-hour seminars each week. These will be structured around writing exercises and opportunities to present and discuss work with groups of other students. Individual feedback on your work will be available from your seminar tutor during office and consultation hours and in classes. A week-by-week reading list of novels and commentaries on the subject will be provided in preparation for classes. This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Completion of assessment task100
Follow-up work26
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Wider reading or practice74
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Ali Smith (2002). Hotel World. 

Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway. 

Anne Tyler (2007). Breathing Lessons. 

Evelyn Waugh (2002). A Handful of Dust. 

Curtis Sittenfeld (2006). Prep. 

John Mullan (2006). How Novels Work. 

Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark (2009). How Not To Write A Novel - 200 Mistakes To Avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want To Get Published. 

Meg Rosoff (2004). How I Live Now. 

Mark Haddon (2004). The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. 

Julia Darling (2004). The Taxi Driver's Daughter. 

Julia Bell (2001). The Creative Writing Coursebook. 

Louis Sachar (2000). Holes. 

Frank Cottrell Boyce (2004). Millions. 

Jane Gardam (2004). Old Filth. 


Assessment Strategy

Feedback and constructive criticism of draft and marked assignments will be available from seminar tutors and will enable you to critique and improve your work. For students during the referral period this may only be available via email and will depend on staff availability. Writing exercises used during the module and the discussion in seminars will provide you with potential starting points and foundations for your writing. You will be required to bring drafts of your work to seminars and to present it to groups of your fellow students for constructive criticism prior to submitting each assignment. This process will assist you in looking critically at your own work (as well as that of your fellow students) and so help you to edit and rewrite it as necessary to achieve a professional standard.


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 25%
Written assignment  (3500 words) 50%
Written assignment  (2500 words) 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 25%
Written assignment  (3500 words) 75%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

The cost of books is the only expense associated with this module. This cost can be reduced if students buy secondhand copies of works and make use of libraries.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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